Justice Douglas 5he Mincio ol Dur ,c For the last several years a doubt has been gnawing inside Americans. Have we become obsolete as a nation in the world? With all our might, all our abundance, and the perdurable vitality of our ideals of liberty and individuality, are we, on balance, a dying power? The menacing enthusiasm with which the civic club boosters of our nationality proclaim our certain “victory” is itself a symptom of the growing insecurity. The nub of the dubiety is the dishonesty of our slogans and the treachery of our companies abroad to the revolutionary import of our heritage. But the most obvious manifestation is affluence; the well-off way of life we enjoy. Is it not possible that simply by being so well off, comparatively so rich and idle, we have stopped being able to feel the feelings of the desperate, the starving, the oppressed? Is it not Ronnie Dugger a threatening irony that the satirical writing of Richard Rovere and the throat-clutching dogmatizing of the National Review’s Buckley have succeeded in postulating the presence among us of the “Liberal Establishment”? If liberals have become respectable in the country, \(and they tent have they become eunuchs and apologists for the American stance, instead of the independent intellectuals they assert their duty to be? On the golf course the other morning, two young boys, 14 or 15 years old, were striding along in their natty togs, stridently full of themselves. They spoke loudly, with no consideration for others’ privacy of mind or concentration, exchanging egoistic observations about their own shots, their styles of play, the ways they 1:16..zd to do things. Their manners were positively executive ; though this was a city course, somehow they seemed to own it. One wondered what strange culture has made them, and what they will become, these executive adolescents ; one wondered what were modeling. Are these the youths the world’s hungry, desperate, idealistic youths will in their turn understudy? It seems unlikely. Certainly there is nothing new about these ruminations, \(fulminafollows the brow-furrowed cluckings of the radical press in America knows. Now, however, we have received, in the document of an address, a prophecy of the possibility of American decline from a person of political stature. It is pertinent that he is beyond the smearings of the sloganeers, the pressures of the press ; he is nonethelessin fact, all the morn–worthy of attention. He is William 0.. Douglas, the Supreme Court justice, and his address was delivered to the Earl Warren Institute of Human Relations si Los Angeles, reprinted in Frontier, an’ underground magazine published in California, and mostly ignored in the daily press, as anything radically disturbing usually is. \(Los Angeles editors, said Frontier’s editors, gave more prominence to a local squabble over where to locate a zoo than to this major statement by a Supreme Court justice in their midst. Perhaps we Americans have become especially sensitive when we suspect that some great spirit among us is consigning us JUSTICE DOUGLAS said the civil service has produced heavy-footed bureaucracies under watchful eyes. The loyalty-security programs of government now reach into the private sector, too. “Big corporations, like big governnent and big unions, breed non-controversial men and women,” he said. “At the managerial, engineering, or administrative level there may be debate and controversy. But on the larger public issues of the day, the voices of employees are largely mute. “The commercialism of television and radio has made like change. Spon sors do not want their products identified with commercial programs nor with controversial commentators. There has been such a deadening effect of radio and TV on the American mind, that we may have reached a point where men and women who will sponsor unorthodox points of view must be subsidized by foundations.” Generalizations of such pessimistic cast and encompassing application are usually depreciated, in the optimistic reflex of the sales-promoting culture, as sour-hearted and unpatriotic. However, readers, if there is something generally wrong with American culture, only general language can describe it, generally, and Justice Douglas has chosen the bold course of personal asseveration to try to do so: “The dialogue that has characterized the free society has not disappeared from the American scene, though it has declined. “We are passing through momentous times where no debate takes place even on crucial issues. Laos is certainly more dangerous to all of us than the Missouri Compromise was to our ancestors. Yet while the Missouri Compromise was thoroughly discussed in and out of Congress and up and down the nation, no debate on Laos has been held. “WHY HAS SILENCE overtaken us ? Why has the pattern of no discussion reached into atomic testing, disarmament, Berlin, and other issues that involve the problems of survival or extinction ? Is foreign policythe key to life and death for all forms of life in this nuclear agebeyond the bounds of debate? If so, how can we, the people, ever free ourselves from military domination and assert our sovereign civilian prerogative over all affairs of stateover war as well as over peace? “A survey of newspapers from coast to coast shows the low estate of dialogue on domestic as well as foreign issues,” said Justice Douglas. “Money-makers have taken over the press. They want readers and advertisers ; and so they cater to the low common denominator in the populace. To that fact must be added the further one that the owners are largely conservative. The result is a press which with few exceptions gives no true account of forces at work in the world.” Justice Douglas knew the gravity of that statement : “The result is a press which with few exceptions gives no true account of forces at work in the world.” Lest anyone doubt he meant it, his next sentence repeated it : “Those who live in the average American town have no chance of getting an adequate measure of the world problem. “Ignorance alone is tragedy enough. Further tragedy lies in the fact that the people of the United States . . . are largely immobilized. Fears of communism are subtly transformed into fears of the unorthodox. “The affluent society is also responsible. Those who live in ease are not the ones to go in search of the Holy Grail. Yet more recruits’ are needed today for our modern crusade than ever before .. . “Big business, big government, big unionseach has helped erase some of the qualities of individuality from Americans. As the individual has become more and more submerged, his voice is more indistinct. “The tie-in between our military and our industry is no casual thing. In a few communities three out of four or even five out of six families are dependent directly or indirectly on Pentagon largesse. What would happen in city after city if real disarmament was announced tomorrow? Transferring our economy from a military to a consumer regime would present difficulties comparable to taking a human being off drugs. Would the military stand idly by and watch their bureaucracy and their power wither? ONCE AGAIN a private, propagandistic group is making a bid to move in on “the minds of youth” through the public schools. The founder of the “Walter Kerr Youth Force for God and Freedom,” Dr. Walter Kerr of Tyler, seems to be actuated by a desire to avoid political extremism. He is a Christian minister. One guesses his politics is conservative, but that’s his business. In this free society anyone is free to organize any organization he wants to, and if he wants to invite school children, that’s his, and the childrens’, and their parents’, business. But when he starts using the public schools, then it’s everybody’s business. Kerr has used the public schools. This was made possible by surely one of the most breath-taking professional blunders ever committed by a top-level public school administrator. DR. J. W. EDGAR, writing on official Texas Education Agency letterhead, signing himself “Commissioner of Education,” actually wrote all 1,500 public school superintendents endorsing Kerr’s unknown-quantity crusade as “sound,” asking them to designate a person to study it, making himself the intermediary between their replies and Kerr, and asking them to do all they could to help the Kerr project. Edgar says he advocated merely a study of the project, but any detached reading of this letter gainsays such a minimization of its import. To their credit, only about one in ten of the superintendents sent back “The influence of the Pentagon abroad is destructive of the democratic ideal. It has almost always been identified with kings or fuedal overlords whose pretences of reform have been hollow. .. . “THE PENTAGON that gets roughly $45 billion a year also makes for conformity. . . . Containment of communism by military programs became a new Maginot Line . . . We overlooked the fact that our foreign aid program was used not to re-establish viable democratic societies but to shore up old feudal regimes. Dollars and guns were our security .. . Due largely to the Pentagon influence our heroes seem to be the dictators. That is one reason why the tides of history are running against us. . . . “No matter what the Pentagon says, the feudal societies are doomed . . . Revolution after revolution is going to be launched. Are we to credit every revolution to the communists? Is every overseas reformer to be suspect? .. . “. . . we must be prepared to export hundreds of experts in task forces who speak the local language and who can show hunger and illiterate, yet eager, people how to lay the foundations of a free society .. . “It is more difficult for people in an affluent society to acquire a revolutionary mood than those whose economies are marginal or worse. It is more difficult for a people far removed from their own revolution to experience that mood than for those who have recently won independence,” said Justice Douglas. YET HE HAS NOT given up the Holy Grail of well-being with liberty. This is the creative use of realism, or call it pessimism : without it we cannot sense the ambience of our problem ; we cannot intuit the effort that is called for. Justice Douglas concluded his neglected, apocalyptic speech: “Yet there is nothing inevitable in historic processes that makes longestablished regimes unable to become evangelists of radical ideas and to promote at home and abroad the ideas of the free society that offer liberty and equality to all .. . “Once the peoples of the world feel the force of the free society and see that it is built on the creed of liberty and equality, democracy can become the most contagious influence on all the continents.” the return postcard. They have plenty of school organizations to keep their kids busy already. They have prayers in their classrooms if their teachers want them. They have civics and government and history courses to teach about the American heritage and freedom and anti-trust litigation and civil rights, too. But, Edgar says, 140 of the superintendents did reply, and Edgar sent their replies to Kerr, and, Kerr says, “I believe we do have, through Dr. Edgar’s announcement of the program, at least 150 schools who have already taken the first step of organization.” What is to be done? First, we hope Edgar never again uses his position of public trust to recommend to superintendents a privately financed extra curricular unknown-quantity organization that may or may not proselytize either religiously or politically or both. Second, to the extent that 150 school districts are now involved in promoting this program, the superintendents have a duty to assess it very strictly according to the standards of this free society with respect to the religious and political impartiality of public institutions. Third, as thoughtful citizens we must all askof our own school superintendents, but also of our own stance for action in societywhat can be done about moneyed private organizations that have been selling THE OBSERVER does not prejudge Kerr’s organization. It may be, as he insists, so utterly bland politically, that it can mean anything or nothing in practice. \(If so, why have unnamed people put up $150,000 ally, it can speak equally well to Christians, Jews, agnostics, and atheists. \(If so, how is it that the directors speak of the Youth Force making the instruction pamphlet for the “wings” and “nuclea” will contain no conservative economic dogmas or predicates. \(If so, why not, along with the promised emphasis on “energy” and “motivation,” emphasis also on the value of labor, the contributions and menaces of technology, The Youth Force for God and Freedom may be merely a pep rally club for young boys and girls with nothing better to study than the pamphlet of the Freedom Foundation and Dr. Kerr’s latest book on communism. But how is that force going to rub out of its records, out of its plans, and of its motivations, these sentences from the statement of its board of directors: “Practically all youth are enrolled in some school or college. Invitations are extended to speak to these youth in their assemblies and programs. Here is an available and amazing channel of reaching millions of youth. “Hundreds of thousands of youth assemble in their own meetings each year and invite speakers to address them. This is the most receptive group of all, because it is their meeting and they have invited you. These two avenuesschools and youth groups; provide a gold mine of opportunity to place receptive ideas before millions of youth. These two avenues alone, properly and challengingly used, could unquestionably direct the trend of our times.” Damn it, gentlemen, don’t you realize that the schools in a free society are not “an amazing channel” for private purposes, “a gold mine of opportunity” for a private organization, or an avenue to be “used” by Walter Kerr or any other single man or group to “direct the trend of our times”? Don’t you realize that unless we leave our schools free, we pollute the very springs of freedom, even in the name of preaching freedom? Will evangelists and propagandists please be so good as to leave our public schools to the school teachers? R.D.